Put the Book Down, Kid!

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As a believer of doing everything within your power to raise a good reader, you may be surprised to hear me say that there are times when it is wrong for a child to read.

That’s right; there are times when it is wrong for a child to read. There is an etiquette to reading just like there is an etiquette to everything in life: a time to read and a time not to read.

Children should learn that good manners don't end when you read a book.

Fortunately, unlike table manners, there are only two rules they need to know regarding when it is not acceptable to read.  

I'll list them for you here with brief explanations of why each rule is utterly essential for the budding civilized human being to follow.

1. Books should never come to the dinner table or any other table where food is present. When you eat, you eat; when you read, you read. Out of respect for books, children (nor adults) should ever eat while reading.

You don't want to soil the books with food, which is inevitable, but also because it is just plain rude to read a book at the dinner table.

Children should never be allowed to indulge themselves this way.

2. Another ill-mannered situation I see about as often as I find a child who likes to read is an undiscerning parent who allows their child to bring his books to social gatherings.  The child then conveniently plops himself in a central position to the other guests as if to holler, "Look, I have something better to do than to talk to all of you!"

Somehow the accomplishment of raising a good reader–which a parent deserves to feel proud of– justifies antisocial behavior.

I witnessed such an event the other night. In this particular case, the mother,–being a friend of mine–did know better, but she let the "no-book-at-parties" rule slide that night for a specific reason being unaware of my “never indulge a child” rule.

Nevertheless, I told her it nudged my memory to write about this problem because while she knew better, most parents didn't. At least this has been my observation.

Many a party have I been to when I've tried to engage a child in conversation only to receive the distinct impression that returning the greeting was an unfortunate inconvenience that neither he nor his book had time for.

Said conversations go something like this:

"Hi, sweety, how are you?"

“Fine." (Head goes back in book.)

"What are you reading?"

"A book."

Gee, really?

While it's fabulous, marvelous and awesome that he is reading, his manners leave a lot to be desired.

This sort of behavior is a red flag that the parents are failing to teach this child right from wrong in matters of lasting significance. After all, rudeness is offensive and may have consequences that are unpleasant and sometimes even fatal.

It would not be an exaggeration to say that manners are important for the preservation of life. Many a man has been shot and killed for having wounded someone’s honor.

I am always saying “Glad to’ve met you” to somebody I’m not at all glad I met. If you want to stay alive, you have to say that stuff, though.
— J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

Books, under no conditions whatsoever, are never more important than a living, breathing human being, and the reading of them should never give license to uncivil behavior.

It's not that a child can't ever take a book with him to someplace away from home. He can. He can bring a book on an airplane, on a long drive, to a doctor's office or to any other place where he might have to sit quietly for a long time, but never to a party!

Politeness [is] a sign of dignity, not subservience.
— Theodore Roosevelt

Not only is it rude, but children need to develop their social skills. We all appreciate a scholarly mind, but the man or woman who is a scholar and displays excellent social skills, we enjoy even more.

Engaging in social activities can be uncomfortable and awkward for young children, especially if they're shy. Hiding their face in a book while receiving praise from undiscerning adults about the object in their hands is one way to avoid the awkwardness.

But it's not the right way because it lacks consideration for others.

A better way would be to face the shyness and conquer it by developing a few social skills.

If your child is destined to live a scholarly life, and he may well be, he probably isn't going to become a social butterfly, but he should at least learn how to engage in general conversation when the occasion demands it of him.

Set some boundaries around reading and help your child develop the social skills he'll need to get along in the world, the first of which is a consideration for others which means that you don't plop yourself in the center of a party and begin to read a book.

As Daniel Goleman demonstrates in his ground-breaking book, Emotional Intelligence, good social skills–which are predicated upon good manners–are the basis for just about everything in life that will make a person happy: a successful marriage, good relationships with one's children, long-term friendships, and a successful career.

And Goleman's research proves that there are even times when a child should not read a book.


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My Country 'Tis of Thee


My Country 'Tis of Thee

I’m always struck by how often so many authors, prior to the late 20th century, mention a Supreme Creator.

The great minds in our history, in fact, always referred to a “first cause” (God) including Aristotle, Shakespeare, Dante, Thomas Jefferson, John Hancock, and Fyodor Dostoevsky to name a very few.

This isn’t about religious fanaticism, either, as none of the aforementioned were fanatics. It’s about a drastic change in the discourse that’s altered the mood of our country. Not for the better, if you ask me.

Well aware that the opinions and belief of men depend not on their own will, but follow involuntarily the evidence proposed to their minds; that Almighty God hath created the mind free, and manifested his supreme will that free it shall remain by making it altogether insusceptible of restraint...
— Thomas Jefferson

Suddenly, almost overnight, God has been dropped from the conversation. I’ve watched this change take place during my little more than half a century of existence.

Why? How did we change from a country whose normative belief acknowledge a Supreme Rule in its national discourse to the secular-minded, thinking people we've become today?

Times have changed, yes, but I’m talking about a worldview paradigm that existed since forever, and in a matter of years it's been quickly replaced with a new paradigm that's diametrically opposed to it!

Our national discourse is secular. Our schools are secular. Our literature is secular. Our government is secular. 

As the Supreme Ruler of the Universe has seen fit to bestow upon us this glorious opportunity, let us decide upon it–appealing to him for the rectitude of our intentions–and in humble confidence that he will yet continue to bless and save our country. John Hancock
— John Hancock

What happened?

In a country that honors religious freedom, I can understand why we don't have a national religion, nor do I think we should, but to remove God altogether and in such a short time? 

It doesn't make any sense.

When I was young, we began our school days by singing one of America's national anthems:

My country, 'tis of thee,

Sweet land of liberty,

Of thee I sing;

Land where my fathers died,

Land of the pilgrims' pride,

From ev'ry mountainside

Let freedom ring!

My native country, thee,

Land of the noble free,

Thy name I love;

I love thy rocks and rills,

Thy woods and templed hills;

My heart with rapture thrills,

Like that above.

Let music swell the breeze,

And ring from all the trees

Sweet freedom's song;

Let mortal tongues awake;

Let all that breathe partake;

Let rocks their silence break,

The sound prolong.

Our fathers' God to Thee,

Author of liberty,

To Thee we sing.

Long may our land be bright,

With freedom's holy light,

Protect us by Thy might,

Great God our King!

Did you notice who was mentioned throughout?

We've moved into the era of the progressive almighty individual with disastrous results. Let it all hang out has been the country's motto since the 1960's.

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And look where we are now! 

  • Broken families

  • Massive debt (once considered a sin deserving of “debtor’s prison”)

  • Mental illnesses on the rise, even in our young

  • Addiction to alcohol and recreational drug use

  • Declining literacy

  • A dumbed-down public discourse that’s crude and vulgar

And the list goes on. But we can do things differently, do them in a way that’s in harmony with the natural order. We can raise our children to think and behave in more wholesome ways.

By homeschooling our children, we have a better chance of teaching them manners, teaching them right from wrong; and teaching them that this road does end and the life they have is the road.

I think Thomas Jefferson would agree.

I'll defer my last point to the great educator, Charlotte Mason who expressed it better than anyone else:

The wonder that Almighty God can endure so far to leave the making of an immortal being in the hands of human parents is only matched by the wonder that human parents can accept this divine trust with hardly a thought of its significance.
— Charlotte Mason

The Smart Homeschooler Academy offers its signature course: How to Give Your Child a Private-School Education at Home. Join the waiting list for the next course launch in late fall, 2019.

Elizabeth Y. Hanson combines her training in holistic medicine, parenting coach certificate, plus 17+ years working in education to provide you with a unique approach to raising and educating your children.

A veteran homeschooler herself, she now has two homeschooled children in college. 

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What Kind of Parents Homeschool?!

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Many kinds of parents homeschool; there's really nothing that stands out as a common trait amongst homeschoolers, but most of us share similar concerns and values.

Homeschoolers are usually in agreement that we want our children to have a good education, and we know it's unlikely to happen in public school.

Not the kind of education we're thinking of anyhow.

Who can take the measure of a child? The Genie of the Arabian tale is nothing to him. He, too, may be let out of his bottle and fill the world. But woe to us if we keep him corked up.
— Charlotte Mason

We want our children to not only read well but to enjoy reading. To choose a book to read over a movie to watch. Not that they never watch movies, but lying in bed with a good book is something they look forward to.

Reading competently, writing skillfully, and speaking eloquently are skills most homeschoolers want to make sure their children possess.

That their children become life-long learners in pursuit of knowledge is also a concern most homeschoolers share. With studies showing that by first grade a child's innate thirst for knowledge of his world begins to wane, homeschoolers want to fiercely protect their child's curiosity.

A curiosity without which true greatness is difficult to achieve.

Homeschoolers want their children to enjoy learning for the sake of learning, not for rewards or test scores. They don't want their children subjected to arbitrary tests that serve to sort and rank them amongst their peers.

The lesson of report cards, grades and tests is that children should not trust themselves or their parents but should instead rely on the evaluation of certified officials. People need to be told what they are worth.
— John Taylor Gatto

Instead, they want their children to know that with hard work and perseverance most things are possible, and that test scores are no indication of a person's ultimate worth.

With the loss of a good environment and character training in schools, homeschoolers want to protect the integrity of their children. They want to raise them in an environment that raises them up, not brings them down.

When I was in school, the negative influences were outside the classroom, but that's not true anymore. Children are being taught some pretty inappropriate things inside those four walls.

Over the 17+ years that I've been working in education, those of us working in the trenches aren't just offering alternatives anymore. We are flat-out telling you to get your children out of the system.

It's time.

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It is time we squarely face the fact that institutionalized schoolteaching is destructive to children.
— John Taylor Gatto

Until public schools can offer a better alternative; homeschooling is the way to go.

Fortunately, homeschooling is legal in all 50 states. We need to pull together though and help each other because many women have to work. The good news is that with so many people able to work remotely now, homeschooling is becoming possible for more and more families.

Speaking of families, another thing you'll find is that homeschooling preserves the natural loyalty of a family and homeschoolers tend to be closely-knit. In public school, children learn to be loyal to their peers. I know, because it happened to me.

After my mother passed, my older sister told me that the reason my mother paid extra attention to our youngest brother was because, according to what she had told my sister, every time another child of hers went off to school, they were never quite the same towards her.

She was determined to make sure it didn't happen with her youngest child as it had with her previous six.

The curriculum of “family” is at the heart of any good life. We’ve gotten away from that curriculum – it’s time to return to it.
— john taylor gatto

It pained me to hear this; it still does. Once you develop the loyalty to your peers that public school is so notorious for fostering, it's hard to undo. Most of us aren't even aware it's there. I know I wasn’t.

We don't need studies to tell us why homeschooled families are closer-knit because it's obvious that you become close to the people you spend time with, and homeschooled families spend a lot of time together.

In contrast, public-schooled children spend a lot of time with peers, and then they go home to do homework. There isn't much time left for the family.

With more and more families homeschooling, I'm looking forward to the positive changes we'll see in our country in the coming years.

And no matter what kind of parent you are, you can choose to take part in this revolutionary shift in the way we educate our young.

Let the revolution begin!

The Smart Homeschooler Academy is now open for enrollment with its signature course: How to Give Your Child a Private-School Education at Home. Enrollment is now open through May 8th!

Elizabeth Y. Hanson combines her training in holistic medicine, parenting coach certificate, plus 17+ years working in education to provide you with a unique approach to raising and educating your children.

A veteran homeschooler herself, she now has two homeschooled children in college. 

One Tweak to Your Living Room Could Raise Your Child’s IQ

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The “tweak” part is coming, I promise, but first I need to share some statistics with you.

According to the Labor of Statistics Bureau, reading for leisure has dropped 30 percent since 2004 in adults.

Thirty percent!

That’s a staggering drop in a relatively short period. Why is this so alarming?

Because reading for leisure reflects our levels of literacy. And illiteracy makes for a dumbed-down people and a dumbed-down country.

It really is a pathetic state of affairs because so much of what we need to live meaningful lives, we can gain through reading.

Reading increases our knowledge–it expands our minds, and it allows us to stay in contact with the great minds of the past. We preserve our intellectual, spiritual, and cultural heritage through reading.

To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.
— William Blake

Reading is also a source of enjoyment that enriches our lives, and reading keeps us informed about current affairs too.

Television news won’t do this. People who travel internationally for work have told me that the American media is probably the most controlled media in the world. That’s from a first-hand source; a bit of information you’re not likely to find on television.

And yet, as more children are coming of age, they seem to be reading less and less and doing what instead? According to the Labor of Statistics Bureau, they’re watching television!

Do you want to do something kind for your children? Throw out the television. It will be the kindest thing you will do. At least get it out of sight until they are much older.


We can blame the failed public school system for dumbing down its curriculum, but we can’t blame it for the dumbing-down of our children’s minds that goes on in our own homes.

We’re part of the problem. Would our literacy rates increase if we all took our televisions outside and smashed them? Yes, I believe they would.

Psychologist, David F. Marks, believes that literacy levels directly affect our IQ scores based on his research. I tend to agree with him. After all, if we can improve our IQ’s, as scientist now tell us we can, then literacy must have something to do with it.

If demolishing the television leads to more reading, and more reading leads to higher levels of literacy, and higher levels of literacy leads to higher IQ’s; well, there you have it.

Therefore, unless you want to compete with the public schools for the dumbing-down of your children, you should, at the very least, give your living room a little tweak by removing the trance-inducing spectacle from it.

Give your children a book instead.

Here’s another good alternative: tell your children to grab their coats and shoes and go outside until dinner time. Sound mean? It’s not. Mean is providing 70% of American children with a television in their rooms.

Kind is the mother or father who sets boundaries for their children so the children can learn how to occupy themselves in ways that will serve them well in life.

Yes, but there are educational programs on television, you say? It doesn’t matter. It’s the passive, mind-numbing act of watching television instead of the brain-developing act of reading a good book or socializing or engaging in physical activities that makes the difference,

The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow stronger.
— W. B. Yeats

The world is a fascinating place, but television’s youth today are not fascinated by it. They’re bored by real life. It’s not fast enough. It’s not exciting enough. It’s not crude, silly, or bloody enough.

This is a false belief that’s slithered into their minds. The truth is that the lives of real men and women are fascinating. You can observe them, you can read about them, and you can live a fascinating life yourself.

Nothing you watch on television can ever beat what happens in real life with all its comedy and tragedy; it’s unknown mysteries and infinite surprises. A dependence on what’s false, however, can obstruct you from seeing the wonder of a majestic world.

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So be kind to your children and throw out the television. Let them read a good book instead. They’ll figure out what to do with their time if you let them.

If you can’t throw it out, at least ban it to some obscure corner that’s safely out of your children’s view.

If they don’t see it; they won’t think of it.

After they’ve developed a reading habit, you can let them watch something once a week to prevent the “forbidden apple” syndrome, but make sure they have established a good reading habit first.

Watching television will compete with everything else your children do in their leisure time, and if they don’t have good habits already established, then  the television will all too often win.

Your children’s habits are not insignificant, because they will determine the kind of people they become.

And that is no small matter.

The Smart Homeschooler Academy will launch in late April, 2019, with its signature course: How to Give Your Child a Private-School Education at Home. Join the waiting list!

Elizabeth Y. Hanson combines her training in holistic medicine, parenting coach certificate, plus 17+ years working in education to provide you with a unique approach to raising and educating your children.

A veteran homeschooler herself, she now has two homeschooled children in college. 


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Teaching Children Poetry Makes Them Smarter

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Poetry memorization imprints beautiful language into the hearts of children. Once a prominent subject in every language arts program, it’s a wonder why poetry is no longer taught in the public schools.

Yet, some of the most literate people I’ve known, both in their vast knowledge of the English language and in their colorful expression of thought, have been poets.

Whether schools offer lessons in  poetry or not, it’s something you should be teaching your children at home if you want to improve their language skills, enrich their minds; and even, on a more mundane level–not at all fitting for a discussion of poetry– improve their chances of getting into a better college.

In short, it makes them smarter.

What exactly do children gain from studying poetry, you might ask?

• extensive vocabulary building

• increase in general knowledge

• stimulation of the imagination

• learn creative syntax

• understand simile and metaphor

• versatility with language

As you can see, they gain a lot and all that they gain develops their minds. Let’s examine each benefit one by one.


Looking down the road, and getting the mundane out of the way first, entry into colleges today is highly competitive. If you plan on your children entering a four-year university then good SAT or ACT scores are vital to the process, and part of what the children will be tested on is vocabulary.

Possessing a good vocabulary could give your child the edge he needs to score high.

Exposing children to an extensive vocabulary by reading poetry, especially words they may not learn anywhere else, and memorizing poetry will automatically build their vocabularies.

A larger vocabulary is also associated with higher intelligence, therefore, people who have larger vocabularies are perceived as being more intelligent than others.

Whether they are or not is another matter, but the larger vocabulary they possess at least shows that they are using their minds more which would improve their intelligence according to modern research.


General Knowledge

Poets not only have an extensive working vocabulary, but they are well-read and much of their general knowledge about the world is found in their poetry. Hence, reading poetry increases a child’s general knowledge too.

Poetry is truer than history.
— Aristotle


Poetry stimulates the imagination and evokes feelings we can’t always put into words, at least, not to the same effect. Memorizing poetry stirs the workings of the child’s heart.

Tyger Tyger, burning bright,

In the forests of the night;

What immortal hand or eye,

Could frame thy fearful symmetry?


Poets know how to play with words, and they become masters of the figures of speech like no other.  It’s the ability to arrange words in original and powerful ways that makes some writers stand out above the rest. When children memorize poetry, they are memorizing the skilled writing of master poets.

Poetry is beautiful language distinguished by unusual and unforgettable words.
— David J. Hanson

The language of the poet stays in the children’s hearts and later emerges to influence their own use of language both written and spoken. Just the other day I was writing something and I automatically used the phrase “and above all else.” Why? Because long ago I had memorized a line of poetry that contained the same phrase.

Children who memorize and study poetry will be better speakers and writers having been influenced for life by the great poets both past and present.

Simile and Metaphor

As they get older, children will learn about the adornments of language through poetry: simile and metaphor;  both powerful tools in good writing and persuasive speech.


Learning how to play with words to create original expressions of thought is the hallmark of the poet. I had a dear friend who has since left this world, Daniel Moore, and he was a great writer though mostly unrecognized during his time.

I seldom laughed as much with anyone as I did with him, because he was funny, but he also had such an enormous vocabulary and he knew how to play with words. Some of the things he used to say would not only have me in stitches, but I’d be silently marveling at his tremendous understanding of the English language.

He knew a lot of words, he knew their meanings, and he knew how to use them.

This is just some of what your children will get from studying and memorizing poetry.

When children memorize poetry, they are not only storing it in their minds, but also in their hearts. It becomes a part of them, and it shapes who they become.

In Gwynne’s Grammar, Mr. Gwynne begins his chapter on verse-writing by saying this:

Time was when even the most ordinary education included training in competence at writing verse.”

He uses this chapter to define and explain the rules of poetry according to the classical understanding. I’m going to uphold his position here and encourage you to choose good poetry for your children, not the free verse modern stuff that is mistakenly taken for poetry today.

I’ll leave you with a poem my father used to love by his favorite poet after Shakespeare.

The Road Not Taken 

by Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

The Smart Homeschooler Academy will launch soon with its signature course: How to Give Your Child a Private-School Education at Home. Join the waiting list!

Elizabeth Y. Hanson combines her training in holistic medicine, parenting, plus 17+ years working in education, to provide you with a unique approach to raising and educating your children.

A veteran homeschooler herself, she now has two homeschooled children in college. 

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